Title: The Law of Desire: Rulings on Sex and Sexuality in India
Author: Madhavi Menon
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books
Madhavi Menon breaks down sex and sexuality in relation to the law most succinctly in this pocket-sized book. This book also feels like an extension of her previous work, “Infinite Variety: A History of Desire in India”, which is a work that should be widely read.
The Law of Desire is a slim book of five sections – Preamble, Criminal, Immoral, Obscene, and Unnatural – each dealing with rulings about sex and sexuality and more so thoughts on way forward. The Preamble and Amendment act as Prologue and Epilogue in a traditional sense of a book.
I like how Menon presents facts and doesn’t let her opinions come in the way, though of course there are times that she does debate with the reader, which I found quite fruitful and invigorating. Menon makes connections of religion and fundamental rights to desire and how they have nothing to do with gender to begin with.
Madhavi’s writing is simple, to the point, and peppered with examples from various other rulings, though at times it does get a little overbearing to try and recall them.
One element that I loved a lot in the book is the way Menon uses pop-culture to the benefit of the book’s topic – from movie posters, to literature, to music – all of it ties in neatly with the rulings and the cases she brings up through the course of the book.
She also tries to take the conversation away from just the binary when it comes to sex and sexuality to include the non-binary, which of course is inclusive but are far and few and in-between.
The Law of Desire is a short and insightful read on desire and how sometimes the law doesn’t even know what to do with it. It is biting, precise, and on-point. For readers who want to know more about desire and the Indian courts’ rulings, this is a good book to start with.